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Growing Together Fall 2020

The Legacy Builders

 

The African proverb says it takes a village to raise a child, but the same can be said about building a company. Since the establishment of Harvey Lyman Chemicals in 1954, there have been numerous people who are part of the story that is now Grow West. The individuals highlighted below are retiring or moving to part-time work and we would like to feature them for their contributions to our company and our communities throughout the years. All of us at Grow West would like to thank them for their dedication to our company and you, our customers, for many years.

 

Joe Kitchens – 47 years
Set-Up + Operations, Walnut Grove 

Joe Kitchens started his career with the company back in October of 1973 at the Harvey Lyman AgService location in Clarksburg. Starting right after high school, Joe began work in Clarksburg as a part-time flagger. After a truck broke down that summer, Joe stepped in to fix the hose and hydraulics and was then hired as full-time.  Joe spent his time in Clarksburg on deliveries, spray-rigs, fertilizer truck operations, and set-up and field operations. In 2003, the Clarksburg location was closed and Joe moved to Walnut Grove, where he continued in the set-up and field operations department. Reflecting on his time at Grow West, Joe commented, “It has been neat to see the changes that occurred throughout the years, such as buying our own fertilizer equipment to Les building tank plants and the overall growth of the company.” When asked about his advice for those within the organization, Joe shared, “Keep an open mind and stick with it.”

Don Salfen – 35 years
PCA, Walnut Grove Retail

Don Salfen grew up on the North Coast where his passion for the agriculture industry was ignited at the early age of 12 years when he started working for a local ranch. Working primarily with cattle and in the logging industry, Don quickly opened his mind to learn a little bit more about everything. One might say that Don became a jack of all trades. After college, Don found his way to the Sacramento County Farm Supply in Wilton, CA. In 1980, this store was acquired by Harvey Lyman Company (now known as Grow West) and eventually consolidated with our Walnut Grove Retail location. During his 35 years with the company, Don was an operation manager for three locations: Clarksburg, Walnut Grove, and Lake County. As he gained more experience in the fields and interacting with growers, Don eventually got his PCA license in 1986. Along with his regular duties, Don worked closely with his fellow PCAs gaining more and more experience. This experience led him to go into the PCA side of the business and work with many more crops. His philosophy towards his position at Harvey Lyman Company (now known as Grow West), was, “I am there for the grower. I am a firm believer that there are three of us in the transaction – the grower, the company, and myself. I am in the middle which makes it a win-win situation for all parties.” With the support of his family, Don has spent many years working for the growers. His advice is, “Be yourself. Don’t be who you’re not. Growers can see B.S. when it’s being delivered to them. You shouldn’t be afraid to work. You are working for good people – both in our company and our growers. Go the extra mile. It’s worth it.”

Marcos Medina Camacho – 31 years
Set-Up + Operations, Dixon Retail

Marcos Medina Camacho joined the Grow West team in early 1989 working at Growers Ag Service (now known as Grow West) in Dixon, CA. Having grown up around agriculture, Marcos worked closely with a local grower who farmed for many years. When the grower retired, Marcos began his career with Grow West. He brought real field experience and knowledge of the area and industry to his position at Dixon which has helped him be successful in his position in set-up and operations. Everything from the transportation of vehicles and chemicals to the calibration of equipment. When asked about his position, Marcos shared, “We need to know math well. We need to be able to calculate the units a grower wants to apply to a field and then calibrate the equipment to ensure the correct application.” When sharing his piece of advice, Marcos commented, “Work hard and continue to do good work. It is stressful sometimes, but we come out okay. Do not be afraid to do it.”

Vicky Fox – 24 years
Director of Financial Services

Vicky Fox joined Grow West in 1996 as the Financial Services Manager. Having heard about the opportunity through the grapevine, Vicky was excited about the opportunity to build a credit program for a growing organization from the ground up. In her words, “a Credit Manager’s dream!” Throughout her 24 years at Grow West, Vicky has spent a lot of time getting to know Grow West employees, growers, and other individuals in the industry. “Networking is very important.  I networked heavily in many Credit Associations and Industry Credit Groups.” She has spent over 40 years in Agricultural Credit establishing these connections. “If you network in your profession, it gives you an edge and many long-lasting relationships.” Vicky’s philosophy on her position is, “It’s not just about collecting money; it’s all about how you treat people.” If she could share one piece of advice to others it would be, “Never take for granted that Grow West is a family-owned company that cares about their employees. Work hard and do not become complacent in your position. If you can measure it, you can improve it. Difficult situations can be a gift because they offer an opportunity to grow.”
 
Lesia Henningsen – 20 years
Office Manager, Pleasant Grove Retail

Lesia Henningsen started at Grow West in January of 2000 and is nearing her 21st year with the organization. Originally from Oregon, Lesia moved to Sacramento where her husband was originally from and started working part-time at the Pleasant Grove location when it was under the Agriform name (now known as Grow West). Her part-time work quickly turned into full-time work and the rest is history. Since then, Lesia has put in many hours running the Pleasant Grove office executing all of the expected office duties throughout the year, and stepping in to help with dispatch and all tasks during the busy season. One of the most challenging aspects of her position was learning the geography of the surrounding locations to help with dispatching and delivery. She comments, “I really feel with this type of job you are always learning, because every year and season is different. After 21 years I’ve come to expect the unexpected. I’ve learned to adapt and stay flexible as necessary as the season unfolds.” When asked about what advice she would give, she shared, “Learn to problem solve and think on your feet. Be open to learning something new and evolving as you grow.”
 
Carlos Hernandez – 16 years
Wholesale Manufacturing, Dixon

Carlos Hernandez joined the Grow West team at the Dixon Wholesale location a little over 16 years ago. Starting with little experience in wholesale fertilizer, Carlos has become a go-to guy when it comes to the location. With a background in agriculture, Carlos has always worked in the industry in some fashion. When a position became available to work with Grow West, Carlos jumped on the opportunity to work for a family-owned company. “At first, learning some of the blends and blending ratios was challenging because I didn’t have any schooling,” commented Carlos, “but after watching and training, it has become like second nature.” Throughout his time at Dixon Wholesale, he has worked on a variety of tasks including bagging fertilizer, unloading and loading trucks, working with the rail cars, and overall management of the facility. Carlos said his piece of advice would be to, “Work hard and have fun. I have really enjoyed my time working for this company and I appreciate the opportunity.”
 
Mark Cobb – 16 years
Operations Supervisor, Dixon Retail

Mark Cobb is a veteran in the agriculture industry with over 46 years of experience, getting his start working for a local farmer managing irrigation fields. He began his career in the fertilizer industry in 1974 and joined Growers Ag Service (now known as Grow West) in 2004. Mark had an easy transition into his position at Growers Ag due to his long-standing relationships and knowledge of the industry. He worked first as an office assistant and finished his career as the Operations Supervisor at the Dixon location. Mark took on the challenge of the Dixon location becoming “Responsible Ag” certified back in 2018 which requires passing over 90 safety and management protocols. Having the goal to be 100% certified, Mark took on the challenge of changing and implementing necessary steps to work towards achieving this goal for himself, his location, and the company as a whole. Together with his team, the Dixon location was certified in 2020 and has still maintained its “Responsible Ag” certification to date. Mark’s advice to others within the company is, “If you like dirt and being out in the sun, this is a great place to work. The people are wonderful and you’re all on one team. There will be ups and downs, but if you don’t shy away from hard work, you will be rewarded.”
 
Creighton Lembach – 13 years
Driver, Walnut Grove Retail

With the first part of his career spent hauling across the 11 most western states, it wasn’t until Creighton Lembach joined the Harvey Lyman Company (now known as Grow West) in 2006 that he was able to utilize his Class A driver’s license while still being close to home most of the week. Creighton started at Grow West in a seasonal temporary driving position, but soon after he started, he was offered a full-time position. Throughout his 13 years with the company, Creighton has hauled just about anything anywhere. From big rigs down to flatbeds, nurse tanks, and bubbles, Creighton spent the majority of his time hauling products and fertilizers to growers’ fields helping ensure timely delivery for in-season applications. “This company was smaller when I started. It really has flourished but has kept that family culture and feel even through the growth,” Creighton shared. “There are a lot of good people who work at Grow West. Fond memories are not made through just one experience, they are built through the small actions of coworkers and leadership that truly care about me and my family as people.” When asked about his advice to others, Creighton shared, “There are a lot of people who have worked in this company for many years – some even 50 years. I can guarantee a lot of them did not start at the position they are in. If you work hard and do good work, this company frequently promotes from within.”
 
Matt Ehlhardt – 11 years
Director of Tech Services 

Matt Ehlhardt joined Grow West as the Director of Tech Services in 2009, after spending the majority of his career with Bayer Crop Science. Originally from California, Matt completed his Master’s Degree from the University of Idaho and worked there for some time before coming back to California. As a member of the technical services team, Matt is responsible for staying up-to-date on products and new technologies in the industry. Matt conducts research trials on growers’ fields every summer where the results from the trials are evaluated and communicated back to the full Grow West team of PCAs. His work helps the PCAs make better management decisions for their growers and keeps them most up to date on the leading industry releases. When asked about his favorite part of his position, Matt commented, “I have really enjoyed working with PCAs who are passionate about research. They have helped in designing and partnering with trials and projects.” When asked if he had any advice for others, Matt responded, “Enjoy the time you have at Grow West. Having worked for a big company, I have really enjoyed working for a smaller company with a large footprint in our target geography. Learn from all of your experiences. Professionally you won’t have another opportunity like this one.”

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